…It was early morning, March 2011, and like a wanted man, I ran. Head back, thrashing limbs, sucking air — I was running the Elliot Bay Trail along Seattle’s Puget Sound during a brief trip to the city. A day earlier, I walked the same trail and looked west, across the Sound, at the snowy tops of the Olympic Mountains. These were my first “big” mountains, and I remember taking a deep, appreciative breath at their size and ominous beauty. “So THOSE are mountains…”

It’s been a week of reflection. I’ve learned so much in the three months I’ve worked for TKO’s installation department. Lately, I’ve started to grasp WHY we do the things we do, whereas before I was primarily concerned with HOW to do them. First, “How?” Later, “Why?” Our initial impressions of this pairing are almost always challenged.

…My calves tightened, quads burned, nostrils flared… a breakneck pace fueled by adrenaline and new surroundings. It was the last quarter-mile of my run, and I approached full speed, unrelenting, unflinching…

The side panels on big rig trailers are held together by thousands of rivets. When rivets are covered by a decal, tiny air bubbles form around them. Our goal as installers is to remove every bubble and make it appear as if the rivet heads were professionally painted. It takes a lot of work, but if done right, the graphics look fantastic. Done halfheartedly—

…UNBELIEVABLE! I stopped hard and stood staring at an incomprehensible mass of white dominating the sky south of the city. Squinting, widening, refocusing… I struggled to identify what I saw. Whatever it was, it hadn’t been there during my stroll the previous day, hidden behind Seattle’s heavy clouds…

Recently, I saw a trailer covered with little growths in perfectly spaced rows… ugly, mud-swollen lumps, bulging from the vinyl every four inches. Clearly, rivets were underneath, but it was a perplexing sight. My crew leader explained, “This is what happens when you don’t get your rivets down.” Remaining air gradually “lifts” the decal from the trailer’s surface. The vinyl, which lacked backing, was weak and susceptible to cracks, which let in dirt and water, leading to the unsightly protuberances.

Moments of revelation are often revisited. That which was first made clear as an isolated truth is reaffirmed universally. So it was with Mount Rainier and the small vinyl mounds. The first overturned my quaint, postcard concept of size. Rainier, a giant so great it dwarfs the Olympic chain, and commands firsthand observation to be appreciated. The second connected — a HOW to a WHY. Though I knew rivets required effort and attention to detail, it took seeing an absence of both to fully register.